Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance adds another dash of Persona

The Canon of Vengeance is a compelling new path for the Nahobino to travel.
shin megami tensei v

It would be fair to describe Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance as glorified DLC for the original game, albeit released in standalone form. Much has been discussed about this status, and whether Vengeance should have been a simple add-on, but after playing through, it’s clear that Vengeance is transformative, and that it does stand alone in its own right.

The major change in this SMT V re-release is the addition of the Canon of Vengeance, a tale which functions as a revamped New Game+ adding in handy new save features, a new plot, new enemies, and an entirely new ally who reshapes the events of the game (as well as other tweaks and changes for replayability.) In Yoko Hiromine, SMT V has a brand new foil, and one who brings notable touches of Persona to the adventure.

Bridging the Shin Megami Tensei / Persona gap

Those familiar with the work of Atlus will know the flavour difference (and similarities) between Shin Megami Tensei and Persona. For a quick rundown, both hail from the Megami Tensei franchise, but have different approaches to gameplay, combat, and subject matter.

The Shin Megami Tensei games tend to focus more on combat, with players travelling through various maps, battling and befriend demons, while a light-touch, minimalist story about gods and the end of the world plays out.

Persona leans more into narrative and RPG gameplay, with players typically travelling with a group of pals, trying to solve a particular issue, or saving the world from mysterious enemies. Where SMT is focused on a more hardcore, strategy game-loving audience, Persona aims for a wider appeal, with an art style and tone more in line with mainstream adventure games.

canon of vengeance smt v
Image: Atlus / Sega

Both franchises cover similar ground, but SMT tends to be the moodier, slow-moving gothic adventure with horror tones, while Persona is its brighter, peppier cousin. Pure horror versus the Scooby-Doo approach – but not in such reductive terms.

With the arrival of Vengeance, Shin Megami Tensei V has shifted a little closer to the Persona wavelength – largely in its approach to storytelling. As mentioned, Yoko is a new edition to the Canon of Vengeance, and after selecting her story in the game’s menu, you’ll unlock a new story-focused layer for your journey through The Da’at.

Altered worlds

Yoko is a handy ally to have on the battlefield, and her inclusion adds a human touch to your travels. Usually, you’ll find yourself travelling withdemon allies in SMT – freaks of all kinds: dribbling glob piles, devils with giant, forked [redacted], and of course, weirdly sexy fairies – but in Yoko, you have a human ally who can stomp into battle and make a real impact, while also adding personality to your travels.

It’s the game’s overarching narrative where she has the greatest impact, however. As teased in the opening cutscene for the Canon of Vengeance, Yoko has an important role to play as you cross The Da’at and encounter new threats, including the demonic witches known as the Qadistu. To say more would be to spoil the fun, but suffice to say Yoko is a lynchpin of this plot, and her presence adds layers of story that keeps your run through each sandy dungeon refreshing – even if you’ve already trampled the game’s many dunes.

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smt v vengeance gameplay
Image: Atlus / Sega

Beyond these additions, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is a wonderful package. A wider release on PC and consoles means SMT V is now available for everyone – and it looks gorgeous away from the Nintendo Switch. (As much as I love that console, its graphical capabilities aren’t quite up to the task of keeping up with modern games.)

The other inclusions in Vengeance – streamlined saving, easier exploration, new enemies etc. – make the entire package a more rewarding, dynamic experience. If you’ve played SMT V already, Vengeance does provide opportunity to replay the game in a way that feels fresh and more intriguing, with late-game twists shaking up expectations – although it’s worth noting you’ll still trample many of the same paths.

For newcomers, this is the version of Shin Megami Tensei V you’ll want to experience, with its new additions making the game far more approachable – particularly for those with experience of Atlus’ Persona series. As a complete package, Vengeance makes essential changes to the SMT formula, while introducing a more compelling, emotionally-charged story that improves on its predecessor.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is out now for PC and consoles.

A PlayStation 5 code for Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance was provided for the purposes of this review.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.